What I Ate: Des Moines

“there’s something for everyone”

One word: burritos. I was lucky enough to get a fantastic recommendation from a friend of my boss. She suggested a place near the setup for Pride called Tacopocalypse. She said their vegan chorizo was good enough that that’s always what she ordered, and she’s not even vegan. So of course, I had to give it a try.

The restaurant is right in the heart of downtown Des Moines, just a few blocks down from the capitol building. It’s got a super cool industrial vibe, but the best part is that it has two menus and one is entirely vegan. Even on the main menu, they are willing to swap out things to make just about all their dishes vegan. AND there is so much variety, which is not typical of places that serve both vegan and non-vegan dishes. As for what I specifically ordered:

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I first tried the vegan chorizo burrito, which is phenomenal. This picture does not do it justice. It is flavorful, has an amazing texture, and is crazy filling. This is high on the list of my favorite vegan dishes ever.

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The burrito I had for lunch was so great I went back for dinner and ordered the California jack, which had jackfruit and guacamole. It was also completely delicious. I was very pleased.

In case you find yourself in the middle of Iowa anytime soon, definitely check this place out. It’s great, especially if you’re eating with friends who want to eat meat, because there’s something for everyone.

Spaces: Des Moines Pride ’17

“we refuse to sacrifice any amount of our queerness in order to gain acceptance”

This weekend I’m at the Pride in Des Moines, Iowa. Today it was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. In addition, the Comey trial, the terrible events in Chechnya, and the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting are at the forefront of the minds of everyone here. It is difficult but necessary to be proud for multiple reasons.

First, the heat in itself presents quite a few logistical challenges. Many people overcome this by foregoing a shirt in favor of a bra, pasties, or nothing. (During my eight hours, I started in a shirt and ended in a sports bra, sorry mom.) The nature of Pride events is an incredibly nonjudgemental atmosphere, thus all sorts of outfits are seen, including kink outfits. Trust me, people in the LGBTQ+ community spend enough of our time being ostracized that we generally try to avoid excluding or judging others. Still, no matter how oppressive the heat became, people still came out to celebrate their pride. (A metaphor, if you will.)

As far as modern politics are concerned, I’ll only delve far enough into the Comey trial to say that while I definitely think Trump is unfit to be the POTUS and has broken several laws, the prospect of a Pence presidency is equally terrifying. We’re in some sick catch-22 of awful president options and we just need Major Major Major Major to launch us into a war (not really, please don’t let anyone start a war, I’m anti-war). Really though, either we have a criminal man-child who is grossly unqualified and hell-bent on erasing Obama’s legacy of progress or some sort of Bond super villain with a special hatred for women and the LGBTQ+ community. Either way, absolutely no one wins. Sure, the quotes from the trial are hilarious, but we’re all laughing uncomfortably and in fear for our lives.

These combined with the horrors happening in Chechnya (gay men being hunted and slaughtered) and the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando (in which a gay bar was targeted in a terrorist attack) put a pretty somber mood on Pride month. Plus, Kenne McFadden, a trans person of color, was just murdered, adding to the more than ten this year. The country and world are still not great places for queer people on the whole. To be honest, they’re pretty terrible. We face higher rates of violence and murder than straight people, especially from governments, we’re constantly discriminated against, and yet we will still continue to be visible.

In a sense, that’s what Pride Month is about. We understand and recognize that the world is a more difficult place to live in if you’re queer. We remember those who were martyred for being out and fighting for rights (in case you’re wondering, June is Pride Month because the riots at Stonewall by drag queens against police brutality occurred in June 1969). We celebrate our identity, our past, and we declare in our visibility and our existence that we are going nowhere and we cannot be scared into silence. In times of strife, this visibility and openness becomes necessary to our survival, as we cannot live in fear or silence.

I’ve already discussed to some extent why being proud is so important in today’s world, but it’s also important to fight against marginalization in all of its manifestations. This is why we wear pasties and rainbow tails and tight clothes normally thought of to be another gender’s. This is why drag queens have always been so important. This is why we gather in spaces in solidarity with each other. In the age of respectability politics, we refuse to sacrifice any amount of our queerness in order to gain acceptance. We will be loved and appreciated for who we are, and nothing less.

Lady Love Songs for Pride

Trust

June is Pride month, so in honor of that, here are some of my favorite songs celebrating lady love.

 

“Who We Are” // Allison Weiss

Very fun, very cute, very danceable.

 

“Girls” // Beatrice Eli

This song makes me happier the more I hear it. It’s the perfect anthem song honestly.

 

“Body” // Syd

A super cute girl actually recommended this song to me, so there’s that, plus it’s just such a jam.

 

“I Didn’t Just Kiss Her” // Jen Foster

Apparently this is a response to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and this song is just. so. good. Very raunchy and explicit, and/but the beat is just flawless.

 

“Jenny” // Studio Killers

This song is A BOP. Super relatable if you’ve ever had ~*feelings*~ for a straight friend of yours, but somehow a happy song.

 

“Stop Desire” // Tegan And Sara

This wouldn’t be a complete list without Tegan and Sara. This song is amazing. Trust.

 

Enjoy and happy feelings!

What I Ate: KC

“I have seen the light”

My favorite thing about visiting liberal cities is the abundance of vegan-friendly restaurants. This trend is definitely true of Kansas City’s downtown area. Some of my favorites:

 

Café Gratitude 

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Café Gratitude is super hip and cool and organic and vegan and sustainable, so already it’s in like my top ten most “on trend” places. Also all of the dishes are different adjectives and when you order, instead of saying “here’s your ____” the servers say “you are _____” which is just so great and affirming. I had the “Transformed” and it was absolutely delicious.

 

Columbus Park Ramen Shop

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I ordered takeout instead of eating in the restaurant and the mushroom ramen was absolutely incredible. It’s well seasoned and filling and every bite is interesting. (They also feature non-vegan items so make sure you communicate with your server.)

 

Blue Nile Cafe

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This was my first time eating Ethiopian food and honestly, I have seen the light. I ate the veggie combination and everything was so delicious and incredible that my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I also had the apple cider spiced tea and it was phenomenal. (Also, this was definitely the spiciest thing I have ever eaten and I regret absolutely nothing. I would eat here a million times.)

 

Happy eating!

Everyone Should See Wonder Woman

“heroes are so much more diverse than just white guys named Chris”

image.jpgDon’t worry, this is spoiler-free!

Hopefully you’ve heard the hype surrounding the film Wonder Woman by now. In case you’re still deliberating about seeing it, let me assure you that the praise for it and the records it has broken are absolutely deserved. At this point, I honestly hope every Academy Award goes to Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, and Patty Jenkins.

Of course, it’s not without fault. It’s not the perfect feminist film, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from seeing it. It’s still a great, empowering film about a kickass lady warrior fighting for justice. It tells her backstory and prepares her character for the upcoming Justice League film, which hopefully includes more of her as a well-developed, legitimate heroine. We’ve been robbed of female-focused action movies forever (at least in roles that portray womyn as viable heroes instead of just super hot static characters). Thank goodness for Mad Max: Fury Road and Black Widow in the The Avengers as we finally have at least a semblance of badass action heroines (those these still admittedly have their downfalls)!

So take your moms, sisters, best friends, work buddies, aunts, nieces, daughters, and any womyn you know and I promise that you will leave feeling like you can do anything by the virtue of your lady strength. Take your sons, brothers, dads, the guys you know who call themselves feminists, those who don’t, and show them that womyn can be powerful too. Take your non binary friends and relatives and show them that heroes are so much more diverse than just white guys named Chris. (Though I cannot really speak on the diversity of the film, it did appear to be more representative than other superhero films.) (Also, I’m definitely of the belief that Wonder Woman is pretty queer AND THIS HAS ACTUALLY BEEN CONFIRMED!)

TL, DR: Wonder Woman is a phenomenal film, though not perfect, and you should definitely see it with everyone you know because you’ll feel invincible after and to encourage more diversity in action films and films in general.

Spaces: KC Pridefest ’17

“everything that fights heteronormativity is proof of our resilience and resistance”

This summer, I am interning with an organization called TREES, Inc., a nonprofit which travels around the country to do education about transgender issues in small town and rural communities (if you’d like to learn more, and you should, feel free to check it out here). With this, I’m traveling around the country to various Pride events and through that learning a lot about what it means to live as an out LGBTQ+ person.

This weekend, I started my internship by preparing for the Kansas City Pridefest. I spent a night folding pamphlets with the founder and CEO of TREES, Inc. Meghan Buell, a transwoman. Over the course of the weekend, I spent about twenty-two hours under a tent at the Pridefest with her describing the organization’s mission and pushing resources and buttons at the various people at the event. I saw and spoke to many people whose stories added to my knowledge of being queer in the world.

I have lived as an out and proud lesbian for about a month (May 1st is my Out Day) so I really haven’t had much experience in the world except for on campus at Notre Dame. Even then, my sexuality is typically assumed to be heterosexual and I generally stick around my accepting friends so I avoid harassment. I was also blessed with amazing family members whom I did not hesitate to come out to because I knew I would be loved and safe. I knew I was incredibly lucky, but I had no idea to the extent in which I really was. This weekend, I met LGBTQ+ persons whose family had not talked to them in a decade or more because they came out, others who were still closeted out of fear, and others who have been fired, divorced, and abused because they were living openly. Yet, they all gathered at Pridefest because it was a safe space where everyone could love and be whomever without judgment. It was such a powerful feeling that I was moved to tears.

In a world where everything is political, even things like haircuts and hand holding and the sound of our voices become almost weaponized. Especially under the Trump administration, even within the safe space of Pridefest, everything that fights heteronormativity is proof of our resilience and resistance. Having the courage to be out is already amazing because of the hate in this country towards LGBTQ+ persons, and it continues to require more bravery because of the increasing number of hate crimes since the election of Trump. This weekend I found out for the first time how easy it is to exist in queer spaces, but I’ve yet to learn completely how to live in the rest of society. Seeing so many people who were unafraid in their identities gives me hope for myself in the future.